Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesman Dara Calleary TD has said that the Government must produce a comprehensive framework on internet management which balances the rights of copyholders, the privacy of end users, and the need to maintain and protect a dynamic internet. He was speaking as a range of high profile website, as well as local site Broadsheet.ie decided to “go dark” in protest at draconian legislation being debated on the matter in the US Congress.
“We recognise the need for copyright holders’ rights to be upheld. Artists’ work should be protected from theft. This is the case on the main street, and it should be the case on the web too. It requires a strong legislative response to deal with it. However, this response cannot come at the expense of individuals’ rights to privacy and the need to ensure that the internet remains a dynamic, innovative resource.
“We believe that the laws being debated in the US fail to strike this balance, and we agree with those who have made the point that there is a danger that similar legislation could be introduced here.”
In late December, Minister of State for Innovation Seán Sherlock said that he would be introducing legislation in mid-January on the matter. It would provide for copyright owners to apply for injunctions against Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to stop illegal material being downloaded by their customers.
Deputy Calleary said this proposal is a blunt instrument which fails to strike the balance between the rights of copyright holders and individuals’ privacy.
“There are questions as to how such a law would be compatible with European law. In a case before it in November, the European Court of Justice ruled:
‘National authorities must not adopt measures which would require an internet service provider to carry out general monitoring of the information that it transmits on its network.’
“How can the Minister claim that his proposed new law is compliant with the ECJ’s verdict? Will the rule allow for monitoring of all ISP customers’ communications? How will users’ privacy will be protected? Has the Data Protection Commissioner been consulted on the matter?
“The Government could in effect be ordering ISPs to police the internet, an infringement on net neutrality, and damaging to the dynamism of the internet.”
Deputy Calleary: “We need innovation and clarity, not ad hoc rules by Ministerial Order, which could leave us all in the dark.”